SBJ/Nov. 1, 2010/This Week's Issue

Share and Share Alike?

Major League Baseball does not operate a dedicated team services division. Rather, data on local market business initiatives is regularly shared on a department-by-department basis, with executives in public relations, sponsorship, marketing and other areas meeting with individual club representatives.

In addition to that locally oriented contact, the league every two to three years holds a series of industry meetings with team officials to discuss business issues in detail over several days. The next such session is slated for this month in Orlando.

“There is a constant dialogue between our office and the clubs that happens within all our departments,” said Matt Bourne, MLB vice president of business public relations and a longtime NBA employee before joining baseball in 2008. “It’s really an ongoing thing for us. But there is a starting premise that each individual club knows their own local market best.”

Ticketing is also a more unified component within baseball than in many other sports. MLB Advanced Media owns, which provides primary ticketing services for 13 of the 30 teams. MLBAM also holds a leaguewide deal with StubHub for secondary ticketing.

The PGA Tour’s best practices website
has been up and running five years.

The PGA Tour created a best practices website five years ago that was born out of the tour’s reorganization of its tournament business affairs division. The site is broken down into different areas of emphasis: sales and marketing; operations and tournament guests; players and caddies; media and TV; and charity.

At each PGA Tour event, a member of the tour’s staff walks the grounds and takes hundreds of photos. Those photos are then posted with text on the website, a password-protected destination for tournament directors to find the ideas that work each week — and some that don’t.

Each quarter, Donna Fiedorowicz, senior vice president of tournament business affairs, and her team follow up with a best practices conference call with tournament directors to get more feedback.

NASCAR teams aren’t franchises, and they don’t receive direct financial support from the sanctioning body. They are independent operators, but they do receive marketing support from NASCAR.

In 2007, the sanctioning body created an industry services division. The eight-member team, which is managed by Jill Gregory in Charlotte, shares marketing best practices and research with track promoters and teams.

The group develops annual sales and marketing materials, designs presentation templates and videos, and communicates opportunities around the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Victory Lap and other programs.
NASCAR makes much of the research it does in the sport available on a special website ( that is accessible for teams, track promoters and sponsors. Information such as ratings, attendance, business-to-business tips and licensing ideas are posted on the site.

In addition to those efforts, NASCAR plans to develop an industry roundtable to gather ideas for strengthening operations, and it’s begun hosting town hall meetings where owners and top team executives can share best practices and discuss the sport.

The efforts build on NASCAR’s history of funneling sponsorship leads to teams, which is one of the most overt ways it has helped teams in the past.

“NASCAR does help,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “They do step up and have people that are coming into the sport that they can introduce to teams.”

MLS club services focuses
primarily on filling seats.
Heading up Major League Soccer’s club services division is Paul Mott, the former president of the New Orleans Hornets who worked with the NBA’s TMBO operations from 2001-05.

Under Mott’s guidance, MLS club services has grown from a staff of three to seven full-time employees and one part time. Club services focuses primarily on creating ticketing strategies for each team, and hands out advice on marketing and sponsorship, as well as general business operations. According to MLS, information is disseminated freely through the service to owners and club presidents alike.

“If a club is anticipating making the playoffs, we might help them create a marketing strategy in August,” Mott said. “Leagues and clubs have very different ideas of how to solve problems. We strive to solve those problems with the solution that gets the best result for the club.”

Mott also helped launch the MLS National Sales Center in May. Mott believes the center, which is located in Blaine, Minn., will become the league’s go-to resource for staffing. It offers a 45-day course that teaches proper ticket sales techniques and marketing strategies to individuals who hope to work in the league. The center has graduated two classes.

“It’s become the training program for people who want to sell soccer,” Mott said.

The NHL has a centralized model offering various support across league departments such as marketing, financial and ticketing.

The league ramped up its club consulting and services division in 2007-08, under the direction of Ed Horne, then-senior executive vice president, using a model similar to the NBA’s TMBO.

Horne left the NHL in 2009 and in an ensuing period of restructuring, the league dissolved the club consulting and services division, folding its duties and staff into other existing units. At its high-water mark, the division employed 12 staffers; now the remnants include a small ticketing department.

Some league officials felt the club consulting and services division created confusion with other league units, requiring too many resources, and was never fully adopted by the teams. But there remain supporters of the division who wished the league had allowed it more time to reach its stride.

The NFL shares best practices on
sponsorship, ticketing and fan
What was NFL team services is now club business development, and as the name suggests, it is more focused on revenue generation.

More recently the league has beefed up the department, with executives like two former MSGers: Brian Lafemina as vice president of club business development, and Bobby Gallo as director of club business development and corporate development.

The department shares best practices on sponsorship, ticketing and fan engagement, and has been counseling teams on what to do with fans and sponsors in case of a work stoppage.

The unit reports to Neil Glat, senior vice president for corporate development, who said the group has worked with clubs to develop better fan engagement practices and packaging of tickets.

Said Glat: “Sometimes, just attaching food or a T-shirt to a section will add more value to a ticket than ever, and sometimes you just need to reach out to a season or club-seat holder and do something like send a note on their birthday. The small things count.”
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